Les Paul Range Explained: Deciding Which Model to Buy


The Gibson and Epiphone Les Paul guitar ranges are massive, making it difficult to decide which model is the best for you. In this article, I’ll compare the differences between all the Les Paul models available by both brands so you can decide which guitar to buy.

At a Glance

There are over 25 models of Les Paul available. Gibson make several Les Paul guitars including the most affordable Special Tribute, the most iconic Standard ’50s/ ’60s, the feature-packed Classic model, and the Modern series. Epiphone make more affordable versions of the Gibson Les Paul models.

Gibson vs Epiphone Les Paul

Gibson Les Paul guitars are made in America whereas Epiphone Les Paul models are made in China. Gibson models are more expensive and are made with more premium materials with more attention to detail compared to the most affordable Epiphone alternatives which are mass produced.

This article is split into Gibson and Epiphone Les Paul models from this point onwards.

Gibson Les Paul Range

The Gibson Les Paul range consists of 12 main models (from lowest to highest price):

  • Special Tribute
  • Tribute
  • Studio
  • Junior
  • Special
  • Classic
  • Standard ’50s
  • Standard ’60s
  • ’70s Deluxe
  • Modern
  • Slash
  • Custom Shop

Gibson divide their range into the “original” series and the “modern” series, depending on the features. However, in my opinion I don’t find it all that helpful when distinguishing between models, so I’ve created this table to summarise the key features and differences.

Remember to scroll sideways/ turn the screen horizontally if you’re on mobile to view the full table.

ModelPickupsWeight ReliefNeck ProfileCoil TapMaple TopLeft Hand AvailableFinish
Special Tribute2 humbuckers or P90sNoRoundedNoNoNoSatin
Tribute2 humbuckersYesRoundedNoNoNoSatin
Studio2 humbuckersYesSlim TaperYesYesYesGloss
Junior1 P90NoVintage ‘50sNoNoYesGloss
Special2 P90sNoVintage ‘50sNoNoYesGloss
Classic2 humbuckersYesSlim TaperNoYesYesGloss
Standard ‘50s2 humbuckers/ P90sNoVintage ‘50sNoYesYesGloss
Standard ’60s2 humbuckersNoSlim TaperNoYesYesGloss
‘70s Deluxe2 mini humbuckersNoRounded CNoYesNoGloss
Modern2 humbuckersYesAsymmetrical slim taperYesYesYesGloss
Slash2 humbuckersNoVintage ‘50sNoYesNoGloss
Gibson Les Paul Models Compared

Now let’s take a look at some other key features of each Gibson Les Paul and the prices. There’s also a video in each section so you can hear a sound demo. Note that the Custom Shop models are not included in this next section simply because there’s way too much variation between all the guitars. The colour options and prices are correct as of the time of writing but are subject to change.

Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute

Starts at around $1000 (or £850 in the UK) and is available in P90 or humbucker pickup configurations.

  • Maple, rounded-profile neck
  • No weight-relief
  • Compensated wrap-around bridge instead of using saddles
  • Flat pickup guard compared to traditional angled design
  • Hatbox style knobs compared to classic Tophat design and has dot inlays
  • Colours: vintage cherry, worn white, ebony, natural walnut
Demo of Les Paul Special Tribute P90 in Natural Walnut

Who is it for?

Players looking for an affordable American-made Les Paul who are less bothered about the traditional design and fancy additional features.

Gibson Les Paul Tribute

Starts at around $1000 (or £1000 in the UK) and is only available with humbucker pickups.

  • Weight-relieved body
  • Classic Les Paul bridge, tone/ volume knob, trapezoid inlays and pickguard design
  • No plastic around the pickup selector
  • Satin finished neck and body compared to traditional gloss finish
  • Rounded neck
  • Colours: satin honeyburst, satin iced tea, satin burst, satin cherry sunburst
Demo of Les Paul Tribute in Satin Honeyburst

Who is it for?

Players looking for a more classic looking Les Paul on a budget and without any of the frills. The satin finish also helps to provide a “faster” playing experience.

Check out my article comparing the Tribute, Special Tribute and Special models for more information.

Gibson Les Paul Studio

Starts at around $1500 (or £1250 in the UK) and is only available with humbucker pickups.

  • Weight-relieved body
  • Classic Les Paul bridge, trapezoid inlays and pickguard design
  • Hatbox style knobs
  • No plastic around the pickup selector
  • Coil tapped humbuckers
  • SlimTaper neck
  • Alternative colours
  • Colours: smokehouse burst, tangerine burst, wine red, ebony
Demo of Les Paul Studio in Tangerine Burst

Who is it for?

Players looking for an affordable Gibson Les Paul in alternative colour options with coil tapped humbuckers.

Check out my comparison of the Les Paul Studio and the Les Paul Tribute.

Gibson Les Paul Junior

Starts at around $1500 (or £1300 in the UK) and is only available with a single P90 pickup in the bridge position.

  • No weight relief
  • Compensated wrap-around bridge instead of using saddles
  • Flat pickup guard compared to traditional angled design
  • Hatbox style knobs compared to classic Tophat design and has dot inlays
  • Vintage ’50s neck
  • Colours: burst, ebony
Demo of Les Paul Junior in Vintage Burst

Who is it for?

Players looking for a simplistic Les Paul with an alternative design.

Check out this comparison between Gibson Les Paul Junior and Tribute models.

Check out my comparison between the Gibson Les Paul Junior and Studio.

Gibson Les Paul Special

Starts at around $1600 (or £1350 in the UK) and is only available with two P90 pickups.

  • No weight relief
  • Compensated wrap-around bridge instead of using saddles
  • Flat pickup guard compared to traditional angled design
  • Hatbox style knobs compared to classic Tophat design and has dot inlays
  • Vintage ’50s neck
  • Colours: TV Yellow, olive drab
Demo of Les Paul Special in TV Yellow

Who is it for?

Players looking for a Les Paul with an alternative body design, thick neck and two P90 pickups.

Check out my comparison between the Gibson Les Paul Special and Junior models.

Take a look at my in-depth comparison between the Gibson Les Paul Special and Studio.

Gibson Les Paul Classic

Starts at around $2000 (or £1800 in the UK) and is only available with humbucker pickups.

  • Weight-relieved body
  • Zebra pickup design
  • Coil tap and bypass/ phase switching
  • Grover tuners
  • Slim Taper Neck
  • Flat finishes (not flame maple)
  • Colours: translucent cherry, ebony, honeyburst, heritage cherry sunburst, goldtop, olive drab
Demo of Les Paul Classic in Honeyburst

Who is it for?

Players looking for a traditional looking Les Paul with additional functionality and premium hardware. This is a more modern take on a traditional guitar.

Check out my article comparing the Gibson Les Paul Standard and Classic models.

Check out my in-depth comparison between the Gibson Les Paul Classic and Studio.

Gibson Les Paul Standard

Starts at around $2500 (or £2200 in the UK) and is available with humbucker or P90 pickups. There are two versions, the ’50s Standard and ’60s Standard.

  • No weight relief
  • Iconic design
  • Vintage deluxe tuners (’50s) or Grover Rotomatics (’60s)
  • Traditional ’50s or SlimTaper (’60s) neck
  • Bustbucker pickups
  • Flame maple finish
  • Colours: burst, gold top, bourbon burst, iced tea, heritage cherry sunburst, ebony
Demo of Les Paul Standard in Bourbon Burst

Who is it for?

Players looking for the iconic Les Paul design and tone.

There are two versions of the Standard model: the ’50s and ’60s. Check out my comparison between the ‘50s Les Paul Standard and ’60s Les Paul Standard to learn about the differences.

Check out my comparison of the Les Paul Standard and Studio models.

Have a look at my comparison between the Les Paul Standard and Special models.

Gibson Les Paul ’70s Deluxe

Starts at around $2500 (or £2250 in the UK) and is available with mini humbuckers.

  • No weight relief
  • Vintage keystone tuners
  • Rounded C-shape neck
  • Classic trapezoid inlays, top hat knobs
  • Graph tech nut
  • Flat finish (not flame maple)
  • Colours: gold top, cherry sunburst
Demo of Les Paul ’70s Deluxe in Cherry Sunburst

Who is it for?

Players looking for a brighter sounding Les Paul with the classic design.

Gibson Les Paul Modern

Starts at around $2800 (or £2300 in the UK) and is available with humbucker pickups.

  • Weight relieved body
  • Grover rotomatic tuners
  • Asymmetrical slim taper neck with contoured heel
  • Classic trapezoid inlays, top hat knobs
  • Burstbucker Pro pickups
  • Coil tap and bypass/ phase switch
  • Flat finish (not flame maple)
  • Colours: graphite, sparkling burgundy, faded pelham blue
Demo of Les Paul Modern in Sparkling Burgundy

Who is it for?

Players looking for a flash and modern looking Les Paul with additional functionality and a focus on comfort and playability.

Gibson Les Paul Slash

Starts at around $3000 (or £2600 in the UK) and is available with humbucker pickups.

  • No weight-relief
  • No pickguard
  • Vintage keystone tuners
  • ’50s Vintage Neck
  • Classic trapezoid inlays, top hat knobs
  • Custom Burstbucker pickups
  • Flame maple top or flat finish
  • Colours: Appetite Amber, Anaconda Burst, November Burst, Vermillion Burst, Goldtop
Demo of Les Paul Slash in Appetite Amber

Who is it for?

Players looking for top-of-the-range Les Paul in unique finishes with a thicker neck.

Need help choosing an electric guitar? Check out my electric guitar buyer’s guide for plenty of advice plus a step-by-step method to narrowing down your choice.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gibson Les Pauls

Before we move onto the Epiphone range, I wanted to address some questions you might still have about Gibson electric guitars.

What is the difference between a Les Paul Standard and a Les Paul Classic?

The Gibson Les Paul Classic has a weight-relieved body, which means it is lighter than the Les Paul Standard which does not have any weight relief. The Les Paul Standard ’50s has a thicker neck than the Les Paul Classic. The Les Paul Classic also has a coil tap function, unlike the Standard models.

Why are Gibson Les Pauls so expensive?

All Gibson Les Paul guitars are made in the USA with premium materials, which means they cost more than many other brands. The reputation of the brand, as well as the popularity of the Les Paul with famous guitarists, also contributes to the high depend and consequently, higher price of the guitar.

Which Les Paul has the thinnest neck?

The Gibson Les Paul guitars with the thinnest necks are the Studio, Classic and Modern. These Les Paul models all have “slim taper” necks which are thinner than most other models. The Les Paul Modern has an asymmetrical slim taper neck.

Which Les Paul has the thickest neck?

The Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s model has the thickest neck compared to the other models in the range, including the Standard ’60s model. Other Les Paul models with thicker necks include the Junior, Special and Slash models.

Epiphone Les Paul Range

There are 15 main models in the Epiphone Les Paul range (from lowest to highest price):

  • Melody Maker/ SL
  • Special I
  • Special E1
  • Studio E1
  • Junior
  • Studio
  • Classic
  • Muse
  • Classic
  • Standard ’50s
  • Standard ’60s
  • Modern
  • Custom
  • Slash
  • Prophecy

Here is a table comparing each model in the Epiphone line-up.

Remember to scroll sideways/ turn the screen horizontally if you’re on mobile to view the full table.

ModelPickupsConstructionInlaysNeck ProfileCoil SplitBody WoodMaple Top
Melody MakerTwo single coilsBolt-onDotSlimTaper DNoPoplarNo
Special ITwo humbuckers or P90sBolt-onDotSlimTaper DNoMahoganyNo
Special E1Two humbuckersBolt-onDotSlimTaperNoPoplarNo
Studio E12 humbuckersBolt-onDotSlimTaper DNoMahoganyNo
JuniorP90Set-NeckDotVintage ‘50sNoMahoganyNo
Traditional2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidSlimTaper DYesMahoganyYes
Classic2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidSlimTaperYesMahoganyYes
Muse2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidCustom CYesOkumeYes
Studio2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidSlimTaper DNoMahoganyYes
Standard ‘60s2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidSlimTaper CNoMahoganyYes
Standard ‘50s2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidRounded CNoMahoganyYes
Modern2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidAsymmetric SlimYesMahoganyYes
Custom2 humbuckersSet-NeckBlockSlimTaperNoMahoganyYes
Slash2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidC-shapeNoMahoganyYes
Prophecy2 humbuckersSet-NeckTrapezoidAsymmetricYesMahoganyYes
Epiphone Les Paul Models Compared

If you want to learn more about pricing, check out my article on the cost of a Les Paul for a comparison between models.

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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